This article was substantially updated from the first version released April 6, 2016, to reflect further concerts added to the festival.
The Ottawa Chamber Music Festival will showcase Cuban and avant-garde jazz in its 2016 edition, with performances by Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, renowned Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto, bassist Roberto Occhipinti, guitarist Kevin Breit, violinist Drew Jurecka, and cellist Ernst Reijseger – plus a tribute to Duke Ellington.
The festival, which will run from July 21 to August 3, 2016, is again complementing its core classical offerings with late-night jazz and improvised music – even combining them in some cases.
Chamberfest will offer its late-night concerts at the recently-reopened La Nouvelle Scène on King Edward Avenue in Lowertown, with that location replacing St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts.
Saturday, July 23: The Syrène Saxofoonkwartet consists of four women saxophonists from the Netherlands, playing soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone sax. The previous day, they are scheduled to play a classical show, but on Saturday, their repertoire for their free outdoor show in the National Gallery Amphitheatre is ragtime and jazz. At 1 p.m., they'll open with Leonard Bernstein's “Overture to Candide”, and then move to classic rags like “The Maple Leaf Rag” and “Kitten on the Keys”, before ending with George Gershwin's “An American in Paris”.
Saturday, July 23: wunderkind Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger is a featured artist this year at Chamberfest, playing classical music, freely improvised music, and his own compositions. He'll be introduced to the festival at a short, free snapshot concert at 5:45 p.m. at Dominion Chalmers United Church. [Read our interview with Reijseger.]
Saturday, July 23: Jazz composer Claude Bolling mixes “Baroque elegance with modern technique” in his Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano Trio. The eight movements are based on mostly classical dance forms, with mainstream jazz segments (and a few vintage ones) inserted around and under the violin soloist – and with the rhythm section propelling each movement and adding lots of swing. This performance at La Nouvelle Scène features Alexandre DaCosta on violin and Graham Wood on jazz piano, along with Éric Lagacé on double-bass (seen here with Oliver Jones) and Dave Laing (Christine Jensen's drummer) on percussion. The second half of the concert will include pieces by Dizzy Gillespie, Michel Legrand, and Lennon & McCartney.
Sunday, July 24: the Ladom Ensemble will present their original music inspired by Argentinian jazz/classical tango, Serbian folk dance, and Persian classical dulcimer: an “authentically Canadian fusion” at La Nouvelle Scène.
Monday, July 25: The Amazing Cello: Ernst Reijseger introduces the cello and the joys of imaginative music-making to children, at 2 p.m. at Ottawa City Hall.
Tuesday, July 26: percussive dancer Max Pollak and Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto will play a short, free snapshot concert at 5:45 p.m. at Dominion Chalmers United Church.
Tuesday, July 26: Cellobration with Ernst Reijseger and others at Dominion Chalmers United Church. This concert will feature a ten-cello ensemble, a cello duo, vocals, percussion, and two pianos, all celebrating the cello's “glorious range and depth of emotion – from improvisational solo performances to structured choirs”. The programme includes a requiem, a classical suite, a multidisciplinary performance including spoken poetry, and five compositions by Reijseger.
Tuesday, July 26: Ernst Reijseger will explore the heights of improvisation with percussionist Jesse Stewart and baritone saxophonist David Mott at La Nouvelle Scène. This concert was originally scheduled for 2015, but Reijseger had to pull out because of his mother's death. Reijseger re-envisions the cello in his performances, giving it much more than its traditional voice. He plays it percussively, as a guitar, and also with a bow. The trio will present Different Dreams, the album they recorded together last year.
Wednesday, July 27: Guitarist Kevin Breit may be best known to Ottawa audiences as one-third of The Stretch Orchestra, but he's also a demon on mandocello. In the Upper York Mandolin Quartet, he's teamed with Rebecca Jenkins on vocals, Andrew Collins and Jesse Cobb on mandolin, and Mike Mezzatesta on mandola. At La Nouvelle Scène, they'll perform perform instrumental Brazilian jazz and vocal duets from their album, Ernesto and Delilah.
Thursday, July 28: Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, who won a jazz Juno last year for their debut album, will bring their bright Cuban rhythms and strong vocal harmonies and Bunnett's soaring sax and flute lines to Dominion-Chalmers United Church. Since they last appeared at GigSpace in July, 2014, the group has been touring Canada and the U.S., including appearing at the 2016 Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival in May. In October, they'll release a second CD and embark on a world tour.
Friday, July 29: chamber music meets jazz as the Gryphon Trio performs with trombonist/composer Scott Good, drummer Dafnis Prieto, and bassist Roberto Occhipinti at La Nouvelle Scène. This performance will counterpoint jazz and classical genres against each other, with a new composition by Scott Good as well as arrangements originally composed and endorsed by American composers John Zorn and John Adams.
Originally from Cuba, Prieto was introduced to North American audiences by Jane Bunnett, and now lives in New York City. He won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship Award (2011), and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album, and for a Latin Grammy for best new artist.
Saturday, July 30: Accordionist Michael Ward-Bergeman collaborates with Occhipinti, Prieto, and percussionist Jamey Haddad at La Nouvelle Scène. Ward-Bergeman is “a creative force of nature” who has performed with and composed for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and around the world to critical acclaim. “On the accordion, he has created innovative performance techniques that work in harmony with his inspired use of 21st century music technology. His vision has reached its culmination in the hyper-accordion, an acoustic accordion with extended range and expressive capabilities.”
Sunday, July 31: You can't go wrong with Duke Ellington's lovely melodies and swinging rhythms. Chamberfest regulars James Campbell (clarinet), Gene DiNovi (piano), Dave Young (double bass), and Glenn Anderson (drums) will share their love of Ellington's music with jazz violin virtuoso Drew Jurecka at La Nouvelle Scène.
Monday, August 1: Last year at Chamberfest, violinist Drew Jurecka brought down the house playing standards and originals with his trio. This year, he's back in several combinations, including with vocalist Erin Cooper Gay. Their duo concert at La Nouvelle Scène will fuse indie and Renaissance/baroque music from Cooper Gay’s debut album, Black Market.
Tuesday, August 2: The Sultans of String were warmly received at their high-energy show with sitar player Anwar Khurshid at the National Arts Centre in April. They're back in the same format – with the addition of Ernie Tollar on bansuri and saxophone – at La Nouvelle Scène. Their late-night show will feature music from their CD, Subcontinental Drift.
Though not precisely jazz, the following Chamberfest concerts may also be of interest to jazz listeners, and those with broader musical interests:
Saturday, July 23: The Theatre Songs of Leonard Bernstein at Dominion Chalmers United Church
Sunday, July 24: Charm of Finches, Canada’s first flute quintet, in a free concert at 3 p.m. at the National Gallery of Canada’s outdoor amphitheatre.
Thursday, July 28: At 2 p.m. the Lemon Bucket Orkestra will play a children's show at Ottawa City Hall. Later that evening, they'll bring their rollicking spectacle to La Nouvelle Scène, first playing in subgroups and then hitting a climax with a “klezmer-folk-gypsy-punk party” featuring the whole band.
Tuesday, August 2: The Chime Master Mobile Millennium is the largest mobile carillon in North America. Played by the Treblemakers Carillon Duet, it brings the traditional tower instrument down to ground level. You can hear it in a free concert at Rideau Hall at 3 p.m.
Tuesday, August 2: Christos Hatzis’ Constantinople, a multidisciplinary spectacle of cultural crossroads, political division, and clashes of faith with vocalist Patricia O'Callaghan, at École secondaire publique De La Salle.
– Alayne McGregor
Read about last year's Chamberfest line-up: